The 2020 Toyota Supra is here! The 2020 Toyota Supra is here! After an incredibly long wait, Toyota finally showed us the production version of the next-generation Supra this week at the Detroit Auto Show. We now know the specs and the price, but there’s just one lingering question: Exactly what is the Supra competing with in today’s automotive market?
Here is a quick review if you missed it: 335 horsepower with 365 lb-ft of torque, 0-to-60 miles per hour in a scant 4.1 seconds, top speed limited to 155 mph and curb weight rings in at a reasonable 3,397 pounds. If you’re keeping track, that’s a decent bit less powerful than the Supra’s platform-mate, the BMW Z4, which nets 382 hp from the turbocharged inline six. Pricing starts at $50,920 for the base car, $54,920 for the Premium and $56,180 for the limited "Launch Edition."
That all sounds great, and personally I think the car looks pretty good. There’s just one problem: unlike all previous Supra models, the 2020 Toyota Supra is a 2-seater. We basically knew that would happen when they announced the Supra would be built on the BMW Z4 platform. However, now that it’s reality, it automatically pigeon-holes the Supra into a certain segment, the 2-door, 2-seater sports car. Aside from the Nissan 370Z, the Mazda MX-5/Fiat 124 and the Chevrolet Corvette, all of the other 2-seat options are up in the luxury market.
So, It’s a Luxury Car!
You might say that the Supra is clearly in the luxury market, as well with a starting MSRP at just over $50,000 and a BMW-provided interior — but I would disagree. Aside from the Miata/Fiata, it’s pretty easy to spec most, if not all, of today’s 2-door sporty cars, to include the trifecta of muscle from America — the Mustang, the Camaro, and the Challenger — at the $50,000 mark or higher. So price alone does not designate luxury.
And even if it did, most luxury buyers don’t spend a lot of time at the Toyota dealer. Ah, but perhaps this could change that paradigm? Maybe you think that perhaps Toyota’s market research shows something that I don’t see, and there will be enough of a market for a 2-seater luxury performance car. Or buyers out there will just show up solely based on the Supra name and history? Again, maybe, but it’s a sad fact that 2-seater sports cars just don’t sell all that well.
So Sadly It’s Not a Luxury Car, and Even If It Was …
Look through the sales numbers for any 2-seat sports car, across any segment (OK, its basically luxury and non-luxury) and they are absolutely terrible. With the exception of the Corvette, which sells at a fairly decent 20,000 to 30,000 units-per-year range here in the U.S., most 2-seaters net even lower sales figures than the Scion FR-S/Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ. You know, the "enthusiast car that no one buys" yardstick these days? Even if you add the Toyota and the Subaru models together, they barely crack 10,000 cars sold from year to year.
Look through the sales figures for all luxury 2-seaters — the Mercedes-Benz SLC and SL, Jaguar F-Type, Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman, heck I’ll toss in the Smart fortwo for giggles — and most sell under 5,000 cars per year here in the U.S. Even the mighty Porsche 911 sells at less than 10,000 units per year, and that’s got a back seat. Sometimes.
And for me, that’s the biggest issue. As a parent of three, it’s now officially off my radar for my next car. I need a daily driver with a back seat, even a small one, and that’s just a fact I have to live with. So the aforementioned muscle cars, along with other 2+2 coupes and smaller sporty sedans, are still on my shopping list. Sadly, the Supra is not. I sincerely hope it succeeds, but it seems to be a car looking for a segment. Naturally, I like the idea of the Supra, so I hope to revisit this article one day in the future and discover that I was totally wrong — and the Supra either built its own segment, or it just plain sold well. I hope.